The Horsemen (part 5)

The park seemed to guide them deeper into the trees, urging them forward. The small group walked forward, determined to reach the Indians. They were each consumed by their own thoughts and doubts. Famine walked on with a grim determination. He was going to get answers one way or another. His heart thumped in his chest as they entered the grove. The Indian Elders were seated on the soft mossy ground, like they were expecting company. Adahy stood off to the side, his arms crossed over his bare chest.

Famine approached the Indians, waiting for some kind of signal. The elderly woman motioned for them to sit. War opened his mouth to start demanding answers, but closed it with a click when Death gave a slight nod.

“I have gathered the remaining horsemen, but we need guidance before we start our journey,” Famine finally asked the silent circle.

“You are to bring balance back to the world. You have all been blessed with a gift and you must learn how to use that gift for good,” one of the elders replied.

“But how will we know what to do? We don’t want to kill everyone who gets in our way. I still don’t even understand why you chose me,” Famine could feel his frustration growing.

“We did not choose any of you. You are who you were born to be. Your path does not have to be that of death and destruction. You can decide how to bring about the balance. You can attempt to use reason as you see fit,” a second elder spoke.

Death felt his brother shift and prayed that he would hold his tongue. He closed his eyes and sighed as War spoke.

“You speak in useless riddles. Can you not just tell us where to go and who to defeat? We have already restored balance to our city before we were dragged to your park.”

“You hold much bitterness in your heart, but you know what you must do. You have already succeeded in your city, now you must succeed elsewhere. You must use your power for good, do not seek out the war. You must end the war,” the woman finally answered.

War stared at the woman as understanding dawned on him. They needed to end the gangs, but the gangs needed to have the opportunity to choose their own fate. They could not force anyone to do anything, but they could not allow innocents to suffer. He felt his anger ebb away as he accepted his own fate.

Death felt the change in his brother. The anger that usually emanated from him faded away. He was glad that his brother could accept his fate, but he doubted that he would ever be okay with his role.

“You need not fear you role,” Death and Pestilence turned towards the second elder. “Just because your gift is to take life does not mean that you have to take them. You can decide what to do with your gift. You can use it to heal or to judge. The responsibility is on your shoulders.”

Pestilence gave a faint smile as she imagined using her gift to heal instead of helping people end their lives. Death returned her smile, still unsure how he could use his gift.

“So, we just model each city we pass through after the twin’s city? Killing anyone who stands in our way,” Famine asked in shock.

“The route you take to achieve balance is up to you. We can not tell you what to do. Our time is coming to an end. We are short for this world, it is up to you,” the first elder said in hushed tones.

Before Famine could ask anything else, the Indians stood and left the clearing as one. He still had questions, but he knew one thing for sure. There were no more answers for them in the grove. He looked at his companions and was glad to see that at least they looked more sure of their quest. Bringing balance back would be a long process, but he knew that with them, it would not be impossible.

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The Horsemen (part 4)

The next morning, Famine and the rest of the group prepared to leave. War and Death gathered the people they trusted the most and explained to them that they would be gone for a while. The people were of course nervous, but after a lengthy talk, they agreed to run the city. Famine watched in amazement as the two brothers addressed the city. The people there truly loved them. He could not imagine such a civilized place existed in this day and age.

Pestilence was back to her stony silence. She sat back and observed. Due to the brothers’ rule of the city, there was little sickness and no one crying for death. It was a place she would love to come back to. Her heart sank as she remembered that they would be leaving. She knew that their mission to bring balance was important, but she was not looking forward to helping end so many lives. Her eyes met with Death and she knew he would miss this city as well.

War, on the other hand, was anxious to get moving. The night that his brother had found him in that alley, he had sought out the thugs. He had no desire to join them, they were scum. He wanted to make them pay for destroying the city he loved. He wanted to bring the thugs to justice. He did not understand how people could just toss aside their morals overnight.

Once they rule of the city was set up, they began the long walk back to the park where Famine had encountered the Indians. They wanted to make good progress before they were forced to stop for the night.

“It would not be wise to camp to close to our city. There are usually bandits hanging around and looking for ways to sneak into the city. I can sometimes sense when they are close, but not if they are hiding their intentions,” Death explained as they marched.

They agreed to walk as far as they could before stopping. Famine needed to talk to the Indians anyways. Questions buzzed through his mind like bees swarming flowers. He needed answers before he started trying to restore balance.

Despite the added company, most of the day passed in silence. Famine tried to get conversations started with the twins, but War was not much of a talker and Death did not feel much like talking either. Eventually, Famine gave up all pretense of small talk and focused on maintaining their neck breaking pace. He worried about how Pestilence would hold up, but she seemed stronger than ever.

They walked until the light faded to the point that they were stumbling over rocks. The twins gathered wood and built a small fire. Pestilence once again fell asleep as soon as she laid down. The twins cooked some meat, the spices burning Famine’s nose. He expected his stomach to growl in protest, but every since his change, he had yet to be hungry.

“The Indians live in the central park. The local gang is a band of cannibals who have turned to hunting humans for food. They use dogs and they are very organized for being thugs. We will have to move through the city without being detected,” Famine explained.

“Why do we need to be careful. Between the four of us, those thugs will not stand a chance,” War grunted.

“I do not want to kill people unless we have to. Just because we are supposed to restore balance, that does not mean we are supposed to kill everyone we do not agree with,” Famine answered, shocked at his willingness to kill.

War grunted, but whether in agreement or not was unclear. Famine opened his mouth to raise some of his concerns when Death laid a hand on his arm. The look in the huge man’s eyes silenced him. War sprang to his feet and walked towards the sleeping girl. Before Famine could ask what was going on, he heard it. The sound of gravel crunching under foot. He unsheathed his dagger and rose to his feet.

An arrow whistled into their camp and buried itself in the dirt where War had been sitting seconds earlier. Famine turned and snatched a second arrow out of the air. The thugs had found their camp. It was too dark to see how many were out there, but Famine felt like it was safe to assume they were outnumbered. He turned as he heard a sharp intake of breath to his left. A crooked arrow was lodged deep in Death’s shoulder.

Death hissed at the inconvenience and yanked the arrow out. He looked at Famine with a lopsided smile as the wound closed.

“Did I forget to mention that,” he laughed at the confused look on Famine’s face.

Famine did not have time to question his companion as a thug hurtled into the fire light. They grappled around the fire for a few seconds, Famine trying not to use his blade. He meant it when he said he did not want to kill. The thug however, was not holding back. If it were not for his enhanced reflexes, the thug would have easily overpowered him. Famine tried to reason with the man before nicking him on the forearm. He watched with sadness as the man withered and died. He felt his muscles felt rejuvenated as he received the dead man’s strength.

War was no longer by the fire. He had moved further into the darkness, baited by the thugs calls. His fists flew, connecting with anything that got too close. The muscles on his arms bulged, growing stronger the longer he fought. He did not even need to see, he just relied on his sense of hearing. Soon enough, he knew they were all down. Some of them were gone, the rest would wake up and slink away during the night. He panted slightly as he walked back to the fire.

“They won’t be back,” he grunted before settling in for sleep.

“My brother relishes the fight. It makes him stronger, but once it passes, he must sleep,” Death sat down next to his brother’s sleeping form.

“Do you always heal that fast,” Famine asked.

“Yes,” Death hesitated. “I do not think I can be hurt at all. That is my curse.”

“Your curse,” Famine screwed up his face incredulously.

“I think since I cannot be hurt, I will not die. What could kill me? That means that someday, my brother will be gone and I will have to go on alone. I will be around long after balance is restored and everyone I know has moved on.”

Death stared at his brother, the secret he had kept for so long finally out in the open.

“Maybe the Indians will have answers for you too. I just hope we can make it to them without anymore fighting.”

Death stayed awake through the night, every crunch of gravel ringing in his ears. When the sun started to peek over the horizon, he woke the others and they started their grueling march again. Famine was grateful when the city he had left a few short days ago came into view. Soon enough, his hopes of making it to the park without a fight were dashed. The deep barking of dogs and the screams of their victims echoed off the crumbling buildings.

Pestilence looked around in horror as the realization hit her. She was going to have to use her powers on people who were not sick. She had never used it to kill, just to help. Tears threatened to spill down her cheeks as a pack of thugs turned their attention to the crowd of four.

War cracked his knuckles and rolled his shoulders. As soon as the thugs were within reach, he started swinging. He fought with no regard for what his companions were doing. Famine jumped to his aid, dispatching the rabid dogs with his dagger. The small girl stood back, hesitant to join the fray. She shrieked as a woman grabbed her from behind. Her hands found the woman’s face and immediately began draining her of her life. Death walked through the battle, only killing when necessary. The battle was over before the thugs even had a chance to retreat. Dogs and humans littered the sidewalk.

Word of the battle spread quickly. They could feel eyes watching them, but no one else approached them. The park came into view around lunch. Famine could hardly contain his excitement as the walked into the park.

(Do not forget to go back and read the other parts if you have missed them)

Jessica

 

The Horsemen (part 3)

Famine followed the small girl back to her tiny apartment. The halls leading to her room were lined with sick and dying people. Along the way, she stopped to help some of the worst cases of disease. Taking their sickness into her body and ending their pain. He watched in terrified fascination as she worked. Other then soft groans, she did not make a sound.

After she had helped as many of the sick as she could, she stumbled weakly into her room. Famine looked around her sparse room, curious about her past but unsure how to bring it up. Eventually, she stood up and gathered a few possessions in a tattered backpack. She threw what little food she had in the bag too, before looking at Famine for guidance.

“The Indians said that I would be guided to each of the four. That is how I found you. I think there is someone to the east of here. It should not be too far, the tugging feels stronger then it did with you,” he answered the unspoken question.

When he was sure that she was ready and able to travel, he headed back out of her room. The bodies of the dead had been removed, only to be replaced by more disease and plague victims. Tears ran down the girl’s silent cheeks as she walked past them. She wanted to help them, but she knew that she would need her strength for the upcoming journey. She stared ahead, desperate to avoid the pleading eyes.

Famine could sense her distress and started to walk faster. He wanted to get out of the hallway anyways. He could practically feel the plague climbing across his flesh. Before the end had come, he had been a nurse. He knew from experience just how quickly germs could spread. That life seemed like an a faint dream now. He could barely recall his life as Ben.

* * *

They set up camp for the night in a small grove of trees. Famine would have liked to walk further, but the child was slowing him down. Her breathing had become labored and she started stumbling. He knew she needed to rest. He was not sure how taking away people’s illnesses affected her, but he could tell it wore her down.

Pestilence collapsed into a heap as soon as they stopped walking. She could not feel the tugging that Famine claimed to feel, but she trusted him. She had always been really good at reading people’s true intentions. She tried to stand up and help gather firewood, her muscles protesting every movement.

“You rest, I can handle this,” Famine noticed her trying to rise. “You should eat something while I make a fire. I am not sure how much further we have to walk tomorrow, hopefully not too far.”

He stared off into the darkness, his eyes following the tugging sensation. After the end, huge cities had been abandoned or demolished. Cities that had been around for years disappeared over night. He had no idea where they were heading. If he had a normal map, he would guess they were heading towards Maryland. For all he knew though, Maryland could have sunk into the ocean.

Famine glanced over at the girl, surprised to see her asleep already. Traveling in silence all day had made the day seem longer, he hoped the next horseman would be more talkative. He was tired of working through his thoughts on his own. One thing he had decided today was that he needed to talk to the Indians. He needed to get answers to his questions and help figuring out his mission.

He built up the fire and laid down next to the wood pile. Building a fire was a necessary risk. The night chill was too much to handle, but the flickering light could attract bandits. He slept with his dagger clutched in his hand. The only way that they would be in danger is if they were taken by surprise.

* * *

The girl woke as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon. Famine was still asleep next to the smoldering ashes of their fire. She walked over and gently touched his shoulder. She stared at him indifferently as he jumped up, dagger in hand. This was the longest she had gone without helping anyone along and she felt stronger then ever.

Famine looked down at the girl, shaking his head in disbelief. She had not even flinched when he jumped up. He knew that he had no room to judge, but the girl was strange. He kicked dirt over the embers and they started walking again. The tugging was much stronger than before, making it easy to follow. Before they had walked too long, a city came into view. This was the city where they would find the next horseman.

Famine was shocked upon entering the city. It seemed almost normal. People walked the streets and talked to each other cheerfully in passing. Stores were open and selling everything from food to luxury items like soap. No one seemed tempted to loot anything. It was the most normal city he had seen since the end. He could not wrap his head around it.

“Excuse me,” he stopped a passing woman. “What is going on here?”

“We are under the protection of the Tookie Brothers. Under their rule, there is no need to revert to such savage ways as other cities,” she answered politely.

“Where can I find these Tookie Brothers?”

“They live in the blue house on main street.”

Famine watched the woman walk away, still dumbfounded.

“I think we need to talk to these Tookie Brothers. One of them might be who we are looking for or they might know of someone in the city who fits what we are looking for,” Famine turned to the girl.

Once again, she nodded in silent agreement. He did not think she would ever talk. They walked towards main street. Everyone they encountered greeted them with polite smiles and even some handshakes. It was very unnerving. Famine was grateful when the blue house came into view. He expected the house to be guarded or at least fortified, but it appeared to be a normal house. It had a large porch that circled the entire house. The yard was in pristine condition. They walked up the stone walkway and knocked on the solid wood door.

A large dark skinned man answered the door. His meaty arms were covered in tribal tattoos and his dark hair hung to his shoulders. He greeted them with a warm smile.

“To what do we owe the pleasure,” the man asked in a thick Tongan accent.

“We are looking for the Tookie Brothers,” Famine answered hesitantly.

“Well, I am Anga. My brother is called Malohi. Please come in,” Anga swung the door open wider, motioning for them to enter.

Famine followed behind the huge Tongan, careful to keep the girl close behind him just in case things got crazy. They walked into a fancy living room. A second man identical to Anga was lounging on a couch.

“Brother, these two wish to talk to us,” Agna turned and frowned at them. “I do not think I got your names.”

“I am known now as Famine. You can call the girl Pestilence, but do not expect her to answer, she does not talk. We came to your city seeking the two remaining horsemen, war and death. I am not sure who-”

He stopped talking as Malohi stood. This brother gave off a distinctly more hostile vibe then his counterpart. He was not someone to be messed with.

“I am war and my brother is death,” he growled simply.

“Um, how do you know? Have you done things,” Famine asked awkwardly.

“Who are you to question who we are? We do not even know who you are,” Malohi advanced angrily.

“What my brother means to say is,” Agna stepped in between them, “We have known who we are for a few years now. War and death go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other, so it makes sense that it would be twins.”

“But how did you find out you were different,” Famine questioned.

“We grew up in this house. When the end came, everything went crazy. People who we knew were running and looting everything. I had no idea people could act that way. One night a few years ago, I woke up to find Malohi gone. He has always been more driven by his emotions,” Agna smiled at his brother. “I left the house to find him. When I did find him, he was in an alley fighting numerous looters. I watched in amazement as he took them all on single handed. One thug somehow got behind him. I ran to protect him, but before I could reach him, the thug fell to the ground dead. I knew I was the cause.”

“If you had not reacted, it would have been me,” Malohi sounded like they had had this discussion a hundred times. “It was that night that I found out just how strong I am and just how quick my reflexes are. As the years progressed, I have become able to sense people who do not have good intentions. It has helped us run this city. I can pick out who will cause trouble and if they refuse to leave, my brother can end them with a glance.”

“As I said war and death go hand in hand,” Agna finished sadly.

Famine stared at the twins, still unsure if they were telling the truth. He had been sure about the girl the second he saw her, but he never expected twins who readily accepted their fate.

“They are telling the truth,” the girl spoke for the first time.

All three of the men turned to look at her, but she did not elaborate. She just resumed her stony silence.

“OK,” Famine finally said. “I think before we do anything we need to get some answers from the Indians. It’s a two day walk back to the park where they live. We need them to give us some guidance on how to restore balance.”

The remaining horsemen nodded in agreement. He was a little overwhelmed with their total acceptance of him as the leader. He expected Malohi at least to put up a fight about it, but he did not even open his mouth to protest. They settled in for the night, resting up for the long journey ahead.

Icymi here’s part two 

wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/the-horsemen-2/?preview=true

Jessica

The Horsemen (part 2)

        Famine stepped out of the park and despite hearing the howling of dogs, he felt calm. He knew his reflexes were faster, he just was not sure what else had changed. He walked down the streets, silently hoping for a gang member to show up and test him. He did not have to wait long. A huge thug walked straight at him. His face was covered in poorly drawn tattoos and he had the same sharpened teeth as the woman from the park. He cracked his knuckles loudly as he got closer. As soon as he was within arms reach, he lunged.

        Famine dodged the huge man easily, slashing his arm with the wise woman’s dagger. He watched with a morbid fascination as the man stumbled. His skin grew taut and his body seemed to wither as he fell. He was dead before his body hit the ground. Nobody who saw the body would have believed that he was a burly thug just seconds ago. His skeletal frame bore no resemblance of his former self.

Famine gasped suddenly as he felt warmth flood through his body. He looked the same, but he felt so much stronger. The realization dawned on him. He had gained his victim’s strength. He could inflict famine like symptoms on whoever he deemed deserving and he would benefit from it. The wise woman was right, he would restore balance to the end. He knew the tugging sensation was guiding him to one of the others.

He turned away from the body and walked towards the tugging. The longer he walked, the stronger the sensation got. At one point he could feel the tugging coming from two different directions, but he continued on the first path. After his second encounter with a gang member, this time a woman, word started to spread about the stranger with the deadly dagger. Soon enough, the streets were deserted.

* * *

        Famine walked for days before he reached the next city over. He never realized how much he took modern conveniences like cars for granted. The extra strength he had gained from killing the thugs was spent. He searched for a secure spot to spend the night, every inch of this city seemed to be covered in filth. He eventually had to settle for a dilapidated building, knowing his options were limited. He kicked as much of the trash away from his corner as he could before laying down.

        Unlike before, his dreams were empty. He no longer dreamed of the disease or the destruction the end had brought. For the first time in a long time, he woke up feeling well rested and ready to face the day. The tugging feeling had grown steadily stronger as he entered the city. He was sure that he would find one of the four today.

       As he walked, Famine realized it had been days since his last meal and he was still going strong. He scrunched up his face in confusion, considering this new ability. He wished he had asked the Indians more questions before they left him, but he was not positive he could even put his thoughts into words right now. He never expected to be anything more than a normal survivor, barely scrapping by.

        He wandered through the city aimlessly, the tugging was fairly strong now but it just showed him the general direction. He had no clue who he was looking for. They told him he would know the others when he found them, but he had yet to see anyone out of the ordinary. As the sun crept higher into the sky and the humidity increased, he grew steadily more discouraged and angry. The Indians had to know more than they let on. Why were they not more willing to help him?

        He was so consumed with anger that he stumbled over the legs of an elderly man. The man looked like he could have been one of Famine’s victims. His skin hung in loose folds over his knobbly joints. His clothing hung in tattered rags, barely covering his body. Famine pulled back as the old man started to cough, spraying blood and spittle on the sidewalk. Fear shot through him as memories of the end resurfaced. He had no clue if his new found talents would protect him from disease.

        Famine turned to run away from the man, only to bump into a small child. The girl had her pale blonde hair tied back with a string. Her eyes were a piercing blue, the kind that could see straight into your soul. Famine knew immediately that she was the reason he was here. He watched in wary silence as the child knelt next to the diseased man. She completely ignored his raspy coughing as she checked his temperature. It took every fiber of Famine’s being not to jerk the girl away from the dying man.

        The girl did a hasty check of the old man’s vitals. She could always tell who was going to die and who was going to get better. A few months ago, her mother had fallen ill. She was forced to watch her mother deteriorate before her eyes, helpless and alone. One morning she could tell her mother’s time was near. She held her mother’s hand and could feel life leave her. Her mother’s breath came in ragged gasps. The girl prayed for a way to help her mother.

        The girl closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, just like she had for her mother. She breathed in the man’s disease, taking the pain from his body. Tears streamed down her face as his pain entered her body. Relief flooded the old man’s face as he drew his last breath. She winced as his life ended. She knew she was helping the sick, but being the one to help people along was a lonely road.

        Famine stepped forward and caught the girl as she fell backwards. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she shook slightly as the pain rain through her body. He watched in horror as roaches and flies appeared all around them. As soon as the bugs disappeared in the street, the girl rose shakily to her feet. She stared at him apprehensively, sensing that something was off about him.

        “My name was Ben, I am now known as Famine. I was sent to find three others and I believe that you are one of them. I think you are Pestilence. We are supposed to bring an end to this way of life. I’m a little bit foggy on the details,” Famine stated awkwardly.

        The girl watched him for a second before nodding. She had nowhere else to go and no one that would miss her. She motioned for him to follow her back to her hideout. They would need supplies for their journey.

Jessica

(Just in case you missed part one here it is:

wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/the-horsemen/?preview=true )

The Horsemen

       

         ​The world did not end with a bang or a whisper, but rather one scream at a time. Ben raced through the streets, pushing his way through the frantic crowd. He knew he could not outrun the disease, but he could outrun the gangs. He hurtled over the rusted frame of a motorcycle and veered towards the park. The gang lines were constantly changing, but the park always seemed to be neutral ground. The screams echoed off the crumbling skyscrapers as people fell victim to the gang. Ben knew what the gangs were hunting for and he refused to be their next meal. He had too much work to do. 

His panic subsided a bit, but he did not slow down as he crossed into the park. He ran past the warning signs barely registering the skeletons. Death was everywhere now and the skeletons were the least of his worries. He could feel the eyes watching him, waiting to see if he would respect the neutral space or if they would need to take action. Ben was not sure who had set up their camp in the park, but they did not hunt other humans. His hideout was just on the other side of the park, he listened to the screams as he ran. He did not want to hang out in the park while they hunted near his hideout. Thankfully, the screams were still behind him.

                              * * *

Ben silently crept along the street, careful to not give away his position. The screams were gone, which meant the gangs were done hunting for now. That did not mean they would not use him for sport if they found him. His hideout was not far from the border of the park, usually only a ten minute walk. Hugging the shadows and taking extra care to not make a sound caused it to take much longer than normal though. When he finally reached the entrance to his hideout, sweat soaked through his shirt.

The doorway was well hidden behind a dumpster. Ben had to slip in sideways and then slide through the tiny hole in the bricks. The small room was empty with a small hole in the ceiling leading to a room above. Ben used a stick to pull down a ladder and quickly climbed into the room, pulling the ladder up behind him. After a hasty search confirmed that he had not had any uninvited company, he finally settled in for the night. While laying in bed, he made a mental list of everything he needed to find tomorrow. Ever since the end had come, food and necessities where hard to come by.

He had some caches built around the city for emergencies. They contained the bare minimum and he did not like using them unless it was an actual emergency. They were not as secured as his hideout. Ben had been in his current hideout for almost six months, the longest period of time he had spent in one place since the end. The key to survival was to keep moving, but something about this hideout made him linger. It felt like he was meant to be there.

When sleep finally took him, it was filled with the usual restless nightmares. They had come every night since the end. The nightmares were filled with the decaying bodies of the diseased and dying. As soon as the plague reached his hometown, Ben knew he needed to leave. He left as soon as he gathered what he needed. In the dreams, he tried to outrun the disease, but no matter how quickly he ran the plague victims overtook him. The monsters started to pull on him and throw him to the ground. Right before one monster ended his life with a clawed hand, he jerked awake.

Ben held his breath as the sound of footsteps on the street outside reached his ears. An odd sniffing sound echoed in the silence. The gangs sometimes used dogs in their  hunts. His heart was beating so loudly that he was sure the dog would hear it. The dog scratched at the dumpster before moving away. The footsteps faded, but Ben knew it was time to move again. That was too close and they would only get closer. He waited for what seemed like hours before throwing everything he could carry into his backpack. Traveling at night was risky, but that dog would come back. 

He inched his way down the street, keeping a wary eye out for other gang members. His fall back shelter was in a small cave in the park. He just needed to make it there tonight and figure out his next move in the morning. His heart plummeted as soon as he stepped on the park grounds. The dog had picked up his scent and was howling for the others. Terror raced through him as howls answered all around him. He knew he would never make it to the cave. 

He ran deeper into the park, hoping that the watchful eyes would protect him. His hope died suddenly as a huge dog appeared snarling in front of him. The woman holding the dogs leash sneered, revealing teeth that had been sharpened to points. She let out a shrill whistle to alert the others to their position. Ben turned to run away, already knowing that it was pointless. A second dog was blocking his path. Panic was clear on his face as a third dog showed up. He knew his nightmares were about to become a reality.

He screamed for help, but he knew no one would come. It was every man for himself in the world now, unless you were in a gang. Even gang members had to watch their backs though. No one was safe and no one would help him. As soon as the leashes were dropped, the dogs lunged. Ben tried to run again, even though he knew it was hopeless. He cried out as the dogs tore into his skin. His cries were punctuated with snarls and laughs as the gang members watched. 

As quickly as the mauling had started it ended. Ben tried to look around, but he could not move. He was forced to lay in the dirt and listen to the whimpers and retreating footsteps. He tried to assess his injuries, but his mind seemed to be in a fog. The only thing he could register was the pain. He did not even have the strength to fight as he was lifted into the air. He could hear the crunch of footsteps on the dead leaves, but the sound seemed miles away.

The man who carried Ben moved quickly despite the added weight. He had been watching from the shadows and intervened when the peace had been broken. He walked towards the heart of the park. When he reached the center, the brambles parted and he entered. An elderly woman turned away from a table and walked over to him. She shoved her dark wrinkled face close to Ben’s.

“He is almost gone. Get him on the table,” she whispered after she checked Ben’s wounds.

The man laid him down on the table and stepped away. The man left the clearing to look for the other elders. The wise woman would need help, the strangers wounds were severe. The wise woman moved along Ben’s wounds, cleaning them and chanting under her breath. Ben strained to understand what she was saying, but nothing made sense. His vision clouded over and he welcomed the darkness.

The wise woman chanted more fervently as the stranger’s eyes closed. She was not sure if he was the one they were waiting for, she needed to save him to find out. She turned slightly as the brambles parted again. Three more wrinkled men entered. Their skin looked like tanned leather and their hair hung in long gray braids. They immediately got to work cleaning and stitching up the wounds. They added their voices to the woman’s chanting. Ben’s rescuer watched the elders work, daring to hope that this man would be the one to fix everything. They worked on Ben until the sun started to filter through the trees. When they had done everything they could for him, they sat and waited.

                              * * *

Ben gasped and tried to sit up. He winced as some of his wounds reopened. His mind raced as he tried to remember what had happened. His eyes found the strange people sitting around him.

“Who are you? What did you do to me,” he groaned.

“We live in the park and maintain the peace. Adahy brought you to us and we healed you,” the oldest man answered.

“I thought I heard chanting. What was that,” Ben asked as some of the night’s events returned.

“It is an old thing, if you are the one we have been waiting for, you will be different, if not, nothing.”

“Who have you been waiting for,” Ben looked at them in confusion.

“We have been waiting for the one who would lead. One of the four who will bring back balance.”

Adahy stood and handed Ben a folded bundle of clothes. Every scrap of clothing in the bundle was as black as night. Ben stared at it, his mind racing to make sense. He looked up as a weird whirring sound reached him. Without realizing what he was doing, Ben caught the dagger that the wise woman had thrown at his chest. 

“You are the one,” the wise woman uttered in a hushed voice. “You must gather the other three and restore balance.”

“The other three,” Ben did not even realize he was talking again, he was so fixated on the blade.

“Pestilence, War, and Death. You will know them when you find them and you will know what needs to be done,” Adahy answered.

Before Ben could ask anymore questions, the elderly Indians left the clearing. Adahy followed behind them without looking back. Ben changed into the black clothes and tucked the dagger into his belt. He could feel a tugging sensation in his stomach. He knew he needed to follow it as surely as he knew that he was no longer Ben. He had entered the clearing as Ben, but he left as Famine.

(The picture is “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” by Viktor Vasnetov)

Jessica

Paying Dues (part 2)

​Paying Dues Cont.

After staring at the packet until her eyes grew heavy and the words blurred, Ella fell asleep. Her lumpy bed creaked as she tossed and turned. Every dream seemed to haunt and mock her situation. Tears dampened her pillow as her son and husband repeatedly condemned her. She pleaded, desperate for them to understand just how sorry she was. When the first rays of the strange orange sun trickled through her tiny window, the torture finally ended. Her blue dress clung to her sweaty body.

Ella rinsed herself as much as possible in the small sink and put on the spare dress. The packet said that she would be working in the forge kitchen. From what she could piece together from her memories of earth, she was a decent cook. If she tried to hard to remember other details from earth, a piercing pain shot through her head. She hesitated in front of Jaxon’s door, but quickly moved on. The packet was very clear about their stance on being late. Ella did not want to start off on the wrong foot. She wanted to slide under the radar for as long as possible.

The map from the packet lead her directly to the forge. The acrid smell of melted metal began to burn her nose immediately. The forge master was a portly man. He had a bulbous bald head and green mottled skin. When Ella signed in, he directed her to the kitchens. She shuddered slightly as his mouth twisted into a wicked grin, revealing sharp, curved teeth. As soon as she walked into the kitchen, a scrawny female human shoved a tray of what she assumed was food in her hands.

“They supply you with all of your meals, but you must eat fast or you will run out of time,” she whispered.

“What is this,” Ella asked, poking at the red mush.

“It is a protein paste. My name is Samantha, but you can just call me Sam. You are going to shadow me today so that I can train you. It is important that you learn fast and don’t mess up. The guardians do not like mistakes,” Sam answered.

Ella shoveled the paste into her mouth, gagging it down as quickly as she could. She finished the entire plate in four huge gulps. Sam was already walking away and mumbling about what her daily duties would be. It was all pretty straight forward. Ella halfway listened to the woman, all the while planning and thinking about how to get home. The day seemed to drag on, by the time they stopped for lunch, her feet ached. Lunch was a green vegetable paste. 

“Making it a paste makes it easier for all of the different species to eat the same thing. Not every species has teeth,” Sam explained between mouthfuls.

The day continued until finally a whistle rang out and a small bag containing red and green paste was handed to her. Ella walked home in near darkness, wincing with every step. Her head throbbed dully as she tried to remember more about her life on earth. The only thing that she could clearly remember was the night she had ruined her life. 

Before she knew it, she was standing in front of Jaxon’s door. She raised her hand to knock, just to have him open it.

“I knew you would come here eventually. I was hoping you would not wait too long like Sherry,” he looked at her feet, the sadness clear in his voice.

“I need to know. Can I ever go home, there has to be a-”

Ella screamed as he lunged at her. His calloused hand clamped over her mouth, cutting off her scream. He pinned her against the wall. She struggled to get free, his hand was so large that it was covering her nose and her mouth. She was no match for him. Eventually, her struggles grew weaker and black spots began to swim before her eyes. 

“I’m going to let go now, but you need to listen and be quiet,” Jaxon hissed.

Ella tried to nod her head, but the pressure from his hand prevented any movement. When he dropped his hand, she gasped and coughed as air rushed back into her lungs. She was so lightheaded that she could not even protest when he guided her into his room. She sat down stiffly on his bed and watched as he started to frantically scribble on a notepad.

The guardians can hear everything. If they are close enough, they can even read our minds. You have to be careful, if they know that you are trying to get home, you commit ‘suicide’. Sherry made that mistake. The leader has been working on our problem, but he hasn’t thought of anything solid yet. Each building is a pod in the organization, I’m in charge of this one. We are supposed to pool our ideas together and I will give them to the leader. Eventually, we will find a way home.”

“Who-”

Ella clicked her mouth shut before the unspoken question could be heard. 

“No one knows the leader’s name, that way the guardians can never find out who he is. Only the person in charge of each pod ever sees him and even that is not very often. Our goal is to find a way home and to restore our original memories.” Jaxon wrote.

Ella took the paper and pencil from him.

“What do you mean our original memories?”

“The leader believes that we were not brought here as prisoners. He believes that we were brought here to be slaves. The guardians altered our memories in order to keep us complacent. We were not sent here, we were kidnapped.”

Ella stared at Jaxon’s handwriting in disbelief. She could remember driving home on that snowy night. She could still feel her eyes growing heavy. That split second of dosing off and the squeal of tires on the icy road. She did not think she could ever forget the look on her son’s face as they spun out. There was no way they could have implanted that. Hot tears of shame raced down her face as the memories flashed sharply in her mind.

Jaxon clasped her hand in his. He knew what she was going through. Even though he believed the leader, the “memories” of what he had done still hurt. He knew they were not real, but the pain of not knowing if he would ever see his family again was. It would take Ella time to accept what he had told her, but he hoped that she would be able to handle it. They needed everyone working on a plan to get home, not alerting the guardian’s to their plan. Loosing Sherry was a serious blow.

“You have had a long day. You should probably get some sleep and gather your thoughts. You have to work again tomorrow and I’m sure that you are already sore. Remember,” Jaxon tapped the paper firmly.

Only your thoughts are safe.” was scrawled across the bottom.

Paying Dues

I have been applying like crazy to get a writing job and get my name out there. My goal is to write a new short story once a week so that the people I am referring to my blog can get a better feel for my writing styles. The writing prompt for this short story was about dying only to find out you are a prisoner who is being released. The title of the story is called Paying Dues.

Paying Dues

         She gasped softly as the pain began to fade. The area around her wound seemed to go cold and numb. Her heart pounded loudly in her ears as she slid down the wall into a crumpled heap. Every thought seemed like she was struggling to grasp it through a fog, just to have it slip away. The plain gray wall across from her slowly went out of focus. She could tell she was fading away, the pain barely registered as her eyes closed for the last time.

She was shocked when her eyes opened. She was walking down a brightly lit tunnel. The light was so blinding that she tried to shield her eyes from it. She was not sure how she was even standing after collapsing, let alone walking. She did not even know where she was, the tunnel was totally new. 

“Is this what dying is? Walking into the light,” her thoughts echoed clearly in her head. 

She looked down and finally noticed that the gaping wound on her side was gone. Her heart gave an awkward flutter at her new clothes. She could remember everything clearly, the alleyway, the mugging, the stabbing.

“I don’t want to die yet,” she thought miserably still marching forward into the light.

She stumbled suddenly as the blinding light winked out of existence. Her hands flew out wildly to brace herself against the walls she could no longer see. She froze as a deep voice echoed through the tunnel.

“Good afternoon, Prisoner 2743. You have served your sentence, you are free to go.”

The earth seemed to rock violently under her feet as the voice faded away. Nothing made sense anymore. The only memory she had was the mugging. She could not even remember her name, much less why she had been imprisoned. She looked up as a small door opened up at the end of the tunnel. She walked toward the door as quickly as her shaking legs could handle.

The door led into a dingy alleyway that was almost identical to the one she had been mugged in. Her head was spinning and her breath came in panicked gasps. On the ground near a puddle was a black bag. She glanced around, before hesitantly bending to unzip it. Somehow, she knew that whatever was in the bag was meant for her. The door silently closed and faded away as she opened the bag. The clicking of the zipper seemed to be magnified in her ears. She winced softly as the noise grew louder. Finally, the bag fell open.

The contents of the bag included a lain blue dress, black shoes, and a plastic card. She flipped over the card and quickly read it. According to the card her name was Ella. It had her address on it, but she had no idea how to get there. She changed out of her dirty orange scrubs and put on the plain dress. She tried to smooth her hair as much as she could, but her fingers were no match for her matted curls.

Ella crouched behind the closest dumpster as the sound of footsteps grew closer. The last time she was in an alley had not ended well.

“What’s happening to me,” she wondered as the footsteps came closer. “I remember the alley and the mugging. When did I become a prisoner and why can’t I remember anything?”

She peeked around the green dumpster when she no longer heard anything. A shrill scream escaped as the source of the footsteps became apparent. Standing at the end of the alley, was a seven foot tall blue thing. It looked vaguely like a human, but it’s one eye and purple hair made it clear instantly that whatever that thing was, it was not human. Ella turned to run in the opposite direction, but it was a dead end. Her panic was so intense that she did not realize the thing was talking at first.

“-job is to help prisoners make the transition,” it’s voice was an odd warble that she had to strain to understand.

Ella stared incredulously at the blue creature. The longer she stared, the more she noticed the little oddities. It’s long arms ended with four fingers each tipped with long nails. Where a humans knees would have been, the legs bent in the opposite direction. She approached on trembling legs, unsure how to handle the situation.

“Wh-what are you,” Ella finally managed to mutter out.

“As I said, my name is Phlagset. I am a guardian here and my job is to help prisoners make the transition.”

The creature’s gigantic eye blinked slowly.

“If you will follow me, I will take you to your house. If you have any questions, now is the time to ask. Once I leave you, no one else will know the answer and I will likely never see you again,” Phlagset started walking away without waiting for an answer.

Ella raced to keep up with him, her human legs having to work overtime to match his long strides. Her mind was racing, she didn’t think she would be able to organize her thoughts enough to form coherent questions.

“Where are we?” 

“This dimension is called Requast. I believe that your home planet, in an effort to to stop overpopulation, has begun sending their prisoners here.”

“But, I was stabbed, I was dying. Nothing has ever been more real than the pain of dying.”

“If you were to travel across dimensions and maintain your memories, you would loose your mind. We planted the memories in your mind. You were never stabbed.”

“I don’t remember anything,” Ella felt her eyes fill with tears.

“That is normal. Everything will return to you as you adjust to life in Requast. Be prepared though, sometimes remembering is worse then not knowing. We are not told why you were imprisoned, we just provide you with the means to live after you are done serving your time. Many humans cannot adjust to life here. I suggest that you find others.”

His matter of fact tone shook her. There was something unnerving about hearing that she was not going to be able to survive in such an emotionless voice. The tears in her eyes threatened to spill over at her desolate prospects. 

“Surely someone on earth misses me. I know I was not alone there, I know I had someone,” she thought bitterly.

“We know nothing of about your life before you came here,” Phlagset answered.

“You could hear me,” Ella choked.

“The guardians hear everything that goes on here. As I said, remembering is not always the easiest path. It is better to forget and move on.”

Phlagset stopped abruptly and pointed at a door in front of them. She froze in confusion. 

“This is where you will live. Inside you will find a welcome packet that will help you with the transition. I believe there are a few humans living in this complex. You will probably start getting some memories soon. Be prepared.”

Ella watched as Phlagset walked away. When he turned a corner, she finally forced herself to move. The door was locked, but she quickly noticed what appeared to be a card reader. She pushed the plastic identification card in and was rewarded with a soft click as the door opened. Walking through the door took her into a dimly lit hallway. Both sides of the hall were lined with doors. The third door on left had a small nameplate that simply said ‘Ella’. Her room contained a bed and a wash bin. Folded neatly at the foot of her bed was a second simple dress with the welcome packet laid out next to it. 

She sat down and started flipping through the packet absently. She vaguely registered the map and the section suggesting places where she could work. She could not even wrap her mind around the concept of different dimensions. She jumped up as her door creaked open softly. Her fear was quickly replaced with relief as a human male stepped inside. 

“I’m the unofficial welcome party in this complex,” he said shyly. “There is two other humans living here currently, but I don’t think Sherry will be here much longer. My name is Jaxon. I have been here for six months. If you start to have a hard time remembering, you are welcome to come talk.”

“Thank you. What did you get sent here for,” She blurted out before realizing that it might be considered intrusive.

“I made some choices and my family got hurt,” Jaxon answered sharply and left before she could ask him anything else.

Ella flinched as the door closed, instantly regretting her question. She could not erase the pain she had seen flash across Jaxon’s face. She rose to follow him and apologize, but fell to the ground as her head started pounding. Fresh tears rolled down her face as foggy memories started to flash in her mind. She clutched her splitting head and thrashed on the floor. The pain of remembering threatened to consume her. It dulled the physical pain from her head. As the memories rushed back, she understood the pain on Jaxon’s face.

Hot thick tears rushed down her cheeks as images of her husband and child flashed in front of her. She would never see them again, she was sure they were totally fine with that. She remembered everything and Phlagset was right, it was horrible. The pain subsided, only to be replaced by body wracking sobs. She had to get back to her family and make it up to them. 

She may have served her time, but she knew she had yet to pay her dues. Ella silently swore that she would find a way back and she would fix what she had broken. If she could be sent to this dimension, she could be sent back. She pulled herself onto her lumpy bed and started to formulate a plan.

A Beginning

This is a short story based on a minor villian in my first book Tony and the Tamers. She will be a bigger part of book two. I hope you enjoy it!

​The girl jerked awake at the sound of screaming. Immediately after that, she realized the earth was heaving. A particularly sudden quake threw her from her bed and on to the dirt floor. Dirt flew up around her as the earth shook. Knickknacks fell to the floor and she heard dishes shatter.

“Great, I’m going to have to clean all of this up,” she mumbled angrily as the earth rolled again.

She heard a small voice calling her name from the only other room in the tiny house. She scrambled to her feet, desperate to reach her sister. The screaming intensified as the earth shook. She muttered under her breath as she dodged falling rubble. The house was going to come down any second. Borla fought to maintain her balance with every step. The voice called again, weaker this time. She could not understand why it was taking so long to reach the room, time seemed to be moving in slow motion.

She growled in frustration when she found the door blocked by the heavy dining room table. Without hesitation, she blasted the door away with her dark blue flames. The smoking table fell away. Borla knew she would be punished if anyone saw what she had just done.

“If anyone is still alive after this,” she thought grimly.

Borla threw her weight against the door until it groaned open. Her heart sank at the sight before her. In the place where the room should have been, was a gaping black hole. As she stared down into the blackness, the earth continued to shake. She knew without a doubt that her sister was at the bottom of the hole. The last real family she had was gone. Tears ran down her cheeks as she contemplated following her sister. She took one numb step towards the hole before something pulled her back.

The man who owned the house was running out of the tumbling building with Borla over his shoulder. She watched in horror as the hole grew, swallowing more of the house until the entire thing was gone. He set her down on the street and ran in to a neighboring house. He quickly returned with a child in tow. 

“Borla, take anyone you can find and get out of the village,” he yelled, pulling her roughly to her feet.

She hesitated until he shoved her again. She grabbed the child’s hand and forced him to run with her. She tried to block out the cries for help as they ran. She blasted falling rubble out of their path, no longer caring who saw. It would not matter who saw if they died trying to escape. The boy stumbled along beside her, whimpering every time the blue fire lit up the sky. He had heard tales about her, but no one had ever actually seen what she could do. 

Borla’s face twisted in to a menacing grin as she heard his whimpers. She did not know how she had ended up in this village. Every time she tried to get an answer, she was punished. No one in the village seemed to want her to find out. According to her adoptive father, one morning she had just appeared in the village square. Her father had been assigned to watch over her. Her life was normal, until she started shooting flames. 

Her father did not know what to do, so he isolated her and forbade her from telling anyone what she could do. Borla always resented him. She knew he was holding her back from reaching her full potential as surely as she knew her sister was dead. She knew she was meant for more then this tiny village.

She looked back scornfully as the boy fell. He sobbed loudly as the earth started to shake even harder. They were so close to reaching the forest. She looked around as more houses were swallowed up. She tugged at the boy’s arms, but he was frozen with fear.

“Get up now, or I am leaving you here,” she hissed.

He watched in terror as flames crackled along her fingers. Somehow he found the strength to stand up. His bloody knees ached from the fall as he stood. He flinched as she grabbed his arm and pulled him behind her. The tall girl terrified him almost as much as the never ending earthquake. The screams faded with every step they took. He ran in to Borla’s back when she suddenly stopped running.

His heart thumped so loudly in his ears that he did not realize the screams were gone completely. The earth had finally stopped heaving and the sink holes did not grow any larger. An eerie silence fell over what remained of the village, broken by the occasional structure falling. They were the last two people left alive. They had lost everyone but each other. He shuddered as he looked up at Borla. She was the only person alive who he knew now. 

Borla listened for any hint of survivors. The only thing she heard was the boy sniffling at her side. A wave of anger washed over her. She was left with him, a lowly villager who had ostracized her. Her sister had died and now she was left with him. 

“Go check the houses for supplies, we are leaving,” she ordered him callously.

He jumped at her hard tone and scrambled to obey. The image of what her flames could do was seared into his mind. When he reached the door of the closest house, he entered slowly. The walls shifted as he searched. He grabbed everything that he could and shoved it in a bag. 

Borla stood in the middle of the broken street, contemplating her next move. She knew that there was a huge city a few days east of them. There had to be survivors there that could help them. They might even know what had caused the earth to quake. She knew that the earthquake and sinkholes were not a natural disaster. At the very least, someone who could take the child off of her hands. He would serve his purpose and then she would get rid of him.

Her mouth twitched slightly as the boy inched closer to her with the supplies. She did not know his name and did not care to learn it. He would be gone soon enough. 

“Let’s go,” she said, turning on her heel and walking away.

Borla did not even glance back to make sure he was following her. If he decided to stay behind, then it was one less thing for her to worry about. She had over heard rumors about the people in the east. They were witches who rode on huge flying beasts. Everyone in the village feared them. People like that might be able to tell her where she came from.

The boy looked back at the village sadly as they entered the forest. He had spent his whole life in that village and now it was a crumbling husk of its former self. All he had left were the memories, everything else had been buried in the earth. His childhood ended as soon as the sinkhole took his family. He stared at the strange girl’s back trying to work up the courage to speak to her. All of the children had been warned to stay away from the outsider.

“Wh-where are we going,” he finally managed to say.

Borla’s features contorted as her anger crept back up. Everyone in that awful village had been the same. A cowardly lot too afraid of the unknown and unwilling to accept anyone different from them. She ignored the question for the time being and marched deeper in to the forest. She set a grueling pace, ready to put as much distance between herself and that cursed village as she could. Her heart ached dully at the loss of her sister, but she pushed her feelings aside. Mourning would not bring her sister back, nothing would.

“We will sleep here tonight. I’ll get a fire started while you set up camp,” she told the boy.

The boy shied away as she shot the flames at a small pile of twigs. He did not think he would ever get used to seeing her do that. It was unnatural. He set up camp without saying a word. When they were settled in for the night, he passed her the bag of food. Borla could not help but chuckle at the boy’s fear. She could use that to get what she needed. 

As the darkness closed in around them, the noises of the forest grew. Borla built up the fire until the darkness was pushed back. They took turns sleeping and watching the fire. The boy tossed and turned restlessly, plagued with nightmares about earthquakes. She slept peacefully for the first time in years, no longer afraid of anyone coming for her in the night. 

When the first rays of light started peeking through the leaves, she shook the boy awake. They ate quickly and started marching again. The boy asked again where they were going.

“We are going to the Tamer’s city.”

The look of absolute terror on his face made it impossible for her to hide her glee. 

“They might know what caused the quake and where I came from. You can stay with them, I’m sure they will treat outsiders the way they deserve.”

The boy started crying again, but the thought never crossed his mind to not follow her. He had never been alone before. 

After walking for two days, they finally started to see some signs of civilization. The towns they walked through where just as destroyed as the village had been. They walked through villages that were still smoldering. The acrid smoke burned their eyes and lungs. The longer they walked the bigger the villages became going from small villages to cities, until they reached the center of what used to be the biggest city they had ever seen.

The boy searched house after house, but there was no survivors. Borla began to worry that they were the last two people anywhere. She would never be able to find out where she came from. Here and there along the streets were long scorch marks. The only explanation that she could think of was that someone was throwing fire. That was impossible though.

“I’m alone, who else could do something like this,” she wondered.

In one building they found a library. Borla told the boy to set up camp while she explored some more. The deeper she searched in to the building, the more she felt drawn towards a specific spot. Her eyes fell on an old book that was covered in dust. She opened the book, unsure of what to expect. The first page had a depiction of a Tamer. Her heart raced as she studied the picture. Flames spread out from the tall man’s hands as a flying monster reared behind him.

“I’m a Tamer,” she whispered in disbelief.

She tucked the book under her arm and made her way back to the boy. She looked down on his sleeping form with disgust. He did not even wait until she returned to fall asleep. Rather then wake him, she settled in and began reading further in to the book.

“A Tamer’s flames can be used to control animals and, if the need arises, humans. The control should be minor, pushing too hard can twist the animals brain and leave them unable to survive on their own. A Tamer should use their telepathy to judge how far an animal can be pushed before they break.”

She paused over the word telepathy. She had always been able to sense things about people, but she had never read someone’s mind before. Borla stared at the boy, trying to let everything but him fall out of her thoughts. She scowled as nothing happened.

“Perhaps he has to be awake,” she thought.

She tried to read further, but her eyelids grew heavy and eventually sleep took her.

Borla jerked awake after what seemed like five minutes, but the sun rising outside proved she had slept through the night. The boy was already up and making a meager breakfast. He kept his eyes on the ground as he passed her some food. She was surprised at his subservient nature until she saw the book laying open on the ground. The picture of the Tamer was clearly visible. 

Without a word, she ate and then they started walking again. Borla was unsure where she was going, but she knew it was the right way. Around midday, they found a building that was completely untouched. The walls stood tall and sturdy. They walked up to the door and knocked loudly.

The boy crouched behind Borla as the door slowly swung open. He knew what she was, but he felt like if she meant to harm him she would have done it already. His heart leaped as an average looking man greeted them. He lead them in to a room and motioned for them to sit.

“I did not think anyone had survived the quakes and the fires,” the man said suspiciously. “My name is Seema. How did you come to this place.”

“We are from a village. I thought that if any Tamers were still alive they could help us.” Borla answered carefully.

“What good are Tamers? They could not even save themselves from my little show,” Seema cackled crazily.

The boy started to shake fearfully. He grabbed Borla’s arm to steady himself, forgetting for a second what she was.

“Your show? Did you do this? How? I needed the Tamers to teach me,” Borla whispered.

“I am greater then any Tamer! I killed them all,” Seema watched for a reaction from the pair.

Borla felt like everything was lost. She was the last Tamer left. No one could teach her now. As the hopeless weight pressed down on her, her anger surged. The dark blue flames began to race along her fingertips. She was going to make this man pay. However, when she looked into his cold eyes, she did not see fear. She saw him studying and watching her every move, her fire disappeared in confusion.

“I know what you are,” Seema spoke. “I know the pain you are feeling right now. The Tamers let you down, they abandoned you and judged you unworthy of their attention while they lifted themselves up on their perfect pedestal. I may not be a Tamer, but I am the only person alive who can help you.”

The boy was sobbing so hard now that he could barely breath. The tension in the air grew thick as Borla and Seema tried to figure each other out. He wished not for the first time, that he would have died alongside his family. 

“If you do not stop your sniveling, I will grant you that wish,” Borla turned on him.

She did not even realize what had happened until she saw the boys shocked face. Every thought he was having was echoing through her brain as if they were her own. They grew louder and more frantic with every menacing step she took towards him. Her head threatened to split open, the pain was unbearable. She needed the noise to stop. On impulse, she shot fire towards the boy. It wrapped around him like ropes, immobilizing him as she continued to advance. He screamed in pain as the fire tore at his flesh.

Seema watched in awe as the girl walked towards the screaming boy. He knew she was the one who would help him. She could be trained to obey him. He would earn her loyalty by filling the void left behind after he had destroyed her village, but he would have to do it cautiously. She needed to believe that it was her idea to follow his. His face split in to a wicked grin as the screaming finally stopped.

Borla looked down into the boys blank unblinking eyes. Her mind was empty except for her own thoughts. The boy was still alive, but she knew she had pushed him too far. He slumped to the floor as the fire melted away, oblivious to the numerous burns on his flesh. He was just a shell of what he had been. She fell weakly into the closest chair.

“The boy will do whatever you order him to now. You must go to the Wooded Cave. It is there that you will be able to learn more about your gift. I will give you supplies and help you on your way. When you have learned everything that you can there, return to me if you choose and I will teach you all about your heritage and why the Tamers abandoned you. The Wooded Cave will guide you, but only I can give you the answers you seek.” 

Borla nodded weakly. She had never heard of the Wooded Cave, but if Seema was strong enough to kill all of the Tamers she was not going to question his methods. She needed to know why she was left in that village and Seema seemed like the only way she was going to get those answers. She did not fully trust the strange man, but knew she could use him. After he served his purpose, he could join the boy in serving her. Her weakness and shock started to fade away as her steely resolve to get answers and revenge grew.

The Princess and the Monster

“Please, I’m so hungry. I promise I won’t try to leave again,” she pleaded with her silent capture.
The manacle on her leg clanked loudly as she fell to her knees. She looked up at her capture, her eyes swimming with tears, desperate for any kind of food. She winced as a bowl was dropped in front of her, splashing the tasteless oatmeal all over her and the floor.
Her capture looked at her with glee as she ate the disgusting food by the fistful. She would learn or she would starve.

Princess Elania shoved the painful memories of the tower and her life there aside. She was never going back. She vowed to never touch oatmeal again.
The Princess’s heart soared as her hair whipped in the wind. She had been trapped in that tower for as long as she could remember. She had spent every second of everyday in constant fear and dread. From all that she could gather, her parent’s had sent her there when she was very young.
Princess Elania could not even remember what her parent’s looked like anymore. Everytime she tried to ask why she was trapped in this tower, her capture answered with stony glares and silence.
Her capture was a monster. The longer she stayed trapped the more she became aware of that fact. The only times she ever stepped outside, the monster hovered close by to keep her in check.
“This is amazing,” Elania laughed as her prison faded into the distance.
Her face ached from smiling so big. She honestly could not believe that someone had finally come to her rescue. She had started to believe that she was going to die in that tower, never knowing why she had been abandoned there. Her smile faded as she tried to remember her parent’s face’s.
“Please, can’t I just see them? I don’t understand!” Elania screamed at her capture’s back as he walked away.
He turned and his face split into an evil toothy grin. He seemed amused by the tears streaming down her face. A low rumble echoed around the room.
“Are you laughing,” she sobbed, realizing she was never going to leave her prison.

Her heart had broken that day. She knew no one was coming for her and no one ever would. It was just going to be her and the monster forever. That was the day she learned that she had to look after herself.
“Where are you taking me,” she called after her rescuer.
Her rescuer looked back at her with kind eyes and a soft face, but he did not answer. She didn’t really care what the answer was, as long as she was free. She tried to soak everything in, the green plants and the beautiful rolling hills. She had never seen anything but stone walls before.
When the tower was far behind them, her rescuer folded his giant wing’s and landed softly on the springy grass. Smoke curled up from his nostrils as she climbed off of his scaly back. The dragon looked back at her, before opening his wings and with one gigantic thrust, shot into the sky. She watched him circle gracefully, before flying off into the sunset.
Elania did not know why that dragon had saved her from the tower, she just knew she would be forever greatful to be away from her supposed Prince.

My Favorite Character

When I started writing Tony and the Tamers, I was the typical nerdy teen. I wanted all of my characters to be relatable and in doing that, they all turned out the same. I worked on my book all through High school and stopped during college.
When I started working in it again, I realized I needed to do some serious rewriting to fix the characters. The four main characters are Tony, Patrick, Jared, and Matt. They all had family issues and were angry with the way their lives had turned out.
Instead of furthering the story, I immediately began to fix each character’s origin and attitude. I had a notebook where I wrote everything I could think of, down to hair color and height. I like to call this process brain dumping. While brain dumping, I grew to love Patrick. Other then his traumatic upbringing, I feel the most kinship to him.
Since he is my favorite, I decided I wanted to give him his time in the spot light and tell everyone about little bit about him!
Patrick Nero is a fifteen year old prince, who tries to live up to his father’s impossible standards. He has spent his life constantly training to be the perfect soldier and always falling short. He grew up alongside Tony, who seemed to excell at everything.
One of the things that I relate to most, is his constant second guessing. Growing up with his pushy father, he realized from a very young age that he was never going to be smart enough or strong enough. I think not being enough is a fear that everyone has deep down.
Patrick struggles to accept his role on the mission, even after he learns some of what he is capable of.
Every time he starts to get confidence, something happens (either real or in his head), that shakes it. I love watching him progress from a sad prince to a serious contender.
I love all of my characters, but Patrick has a special place in my heart. I love writing from his point of view and watching him grow into a man.
Jessica